The current expiration date system is based on an uncertain relationship between the quality of a product and the passage of time. This system has potential drawbacks, as it may not accurately reflect the true shelf life of a product and can lead to unnecessary food waste. In this paper, we suggest new approaches to expiration dating that aims to improve consumer health and reduce food waste. One of our proposed solutions involves dividing expiration dates into distinct segments, allowing for a more nuanced understanding of a product's shelf life and enabling a more accurate prediction of when it may no longer be safe to consume. By implementing this segmented expiration dating model, we hope to alleviate some of the issues with the current system.
Types of Expiration Dates
Rethinking Expiration Dates
Impact on Food Waste and Consumer Health
Customer Confusion and Food Waste
Summary of Key Limitations
- The expiration date is static rather than dynamic, meaning that it does not change over time despite the potential for changes in product quality.
- Expiration dates are often presented as a single hard date, rather than a range or segmented approach that could provide more nuanced information about product shelf life.
- There is confusion between similar dates and what they stand for, making it difficult for consumers to accurately interpret expiration dates.
- The expiration date is typically determined well in advance of the product's actual shelf life, which can lead to mismatches between the date and the true shelf life of the product.
- The dynamics of product quality can differ greatly depending on the product category, making it difficult to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to expiration dating.
- The impact of poor expiration dating design can vary greatly depending on the product category, with some products posing greater risks to consumer safety than others.
- Consumers can differ in their knowledge and importance of expiration dates, which can impact their purchasing decisions and the overall effectiveness of expiration dating.
- Companies may have different incentives when it comes to expiration dating, which can impact their decision-making and the information they provide to consumers.
- There may be regulatory challenges that impact the design and implementation of expiration dating systems.
- Expiration dates can be linked to the marketing mix, with implications for pricing, promotion, and other marketing strategies.
- Different product categories may have different levels of significance and implications for shelf life, requiring different approaches to expiration dating.
- Packaging can influence the shelf life of a product, and this should be taken into consideration when designing expiration dating systems.
- The storage conditions in retail settings can impact the shelf life of a product, and this should be considered when determining expiration dates.
- Post-purchase transportation and handling of products can also impact their shelf life, and this should be accounted for in expiration dating systems.
- Display and inventory strategies based on shelf life can help to minimize food waste and optimize product availability for consumers.
- Household storage and handling practices can also impact the shelf life of a product, and this should be taken into consideration when designing expiration dating systems.
- Household consumption patterns and expiration dates can also impact food waste, and this should be considered when designing expiration dating systems.
- The disposal and donation of expired food can also have important implications for food waste, and this should be taken into consideration when designing expiration dating systems.
KEY CONCERNS IN DESIGNING A SOLUTION
- Elimination of expiration dates: Given the inexact nature of expiration dates, it may be possible to eliminate them and instead rely on sight or smell as indicators of spoilage. This solution is relatively simple to implement, but may not be reliable in all cases.
- Dynamic expiration dates using sensors: Sensors can be used to monitor and measure indicators of actual spoilage, and adjust the expiration date accordingly. However, these sensors can be expensive (Kusanwadi 2017), and may not be practical for all products.
- Expiration date based on product journey: The expiration date could be based on the journey of the product, taking into account the conditions it has been exposed to during manufacturing, distribution, and transportation.
- Pricing based on expiration: Products could be priced based on their expiration date, with products that are closer to their expiration date being sold at a lower price.
- Promotions based on expiration dates: Promotions could be offered for products that are closer to their expiration date, in order to encourage consumers to purchase and consume them before they expire.
- Segmented expiration dates: Products could have two expiration dates - a "best-before" date and a "use-by" date. The "best-before" date would indicate the point at which the product's quality may start to decline, while the "use-by" date would indicate the point at which the product should be consumed for safety reasons. This solution would provide more clarity for consumers and help to reduce food waste.
- Expiration date-based meal planning and inventory management involves using expiration dates to plan meals and manage food inventory in order to reduce waste. This strategy can be used by dining services at colleges, restaurants, and homes.
- One way that retailers can improve the shopping experience for customers and reduce waste is to coordinate between different product categories. For example, an app could suggest recipes and ingredients to reduce waste during the purchase process. This app could also incorporate information about products that the consumer already has at home, helping them to plan meals and avoid purchasing duplicates.
- Shelf life refers to the length of time that a product can be stored before it begins to degrade or expire. This can be affected by a variety of factors, including the type of product, the storage conditions, and the packaging. The shelf life of a product can be an important consideration for both consumers and producers, as it can impact the quality and safety of the product. Expiration date, on the other hand, refers to the specific point in time at which a product is no longer considered safe or suitable for use. This date is often printed on the packaging of a product and is intended to provide consumers with information about when the product should be used or discarded. There are several different terms that are commonly used to indicate expiration dates, including "best before," "use by," and "sell by." These terms can have different meanings and implications depending on the context in which they are used. In addition to their general usage, the terms "expiration" and "expiry" can also have a more specific legal meaning in certain contexts. For example, expiration dates may be required by law for certain types of products, such as food or medication, in order to ensure that consumers are aware of when a product may no longer be safe to consume. In these cases, expiration dates may be determined based on factors such as product testing, shelf life studies, and other data sources.
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